Bill Varney – SURF LINES

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Wednesday, October 26, 2016
Surf fishing from the rocks
Wednesday, April 05, 2017
Shore fishing the bay

Surf Successful fishermen prepare first
Winter is here and waves are crashing at the beach. When the wind subsides better conditions are just around the corner so there’s no time like the present to get your equipment back to tip-top shape. The winter break is a great time to buy new gear for the upcoming year and to repair and clean your rods and reels.

MATCH LUCKY CRAFT and Rapala lures to the size and color of bait fish that live where you fish.

My reels are without question the most abused of my fishing system. Wind driven sand and salt water have coated and pierced their sealed frame and it’s time to clean and lube them up. Start by removing your old line. If I can’t recycle the line I always place it in a plastic bag before putting it in the trash. This helps at the land fill so birds don’t get caught up in the line before it’s buried.

Start by filling a spray bottle with water and three drops of dishwashing soap. Spray several squirts on a soft cloth (I use an old cotton sock) and completely wipe down the reel so as to remove sand, salt and residue. Most reels corrode near where the handle turns. Remove the spool, clean the inside and then spray both the handle joint and the spindle (in the center of the reel) with a product like Corrosion X. Wipe off excess lubricant and reassemble.

Inspect your rod for cracks and nicks. Check around the guides for rust. You will almost always find it here but you only need to replace a guide when the rust has affected the integrity of the guide. Check your tip to make sure it’s not cracked or bent and clean all sand and salt water from the reel seat mechanism using the spray bottle and sock. If you’re a bit crazy like me, you’ll also use some 50-grit sandpaper and sand the cork rod butt until it looks like new.

If you’re fishing a spinning reel replace the line with brand new six-pound Cajun Red or Ande pink. I suggest you don’t fill your reel too full as you won’t need that much line and you’ll have a lot less chance of a “wind knot” when casting. Check and set your drag so that line will come off your spool if pulled moderately by a fish.

Now that your equipment is up to snuff, here are a few of the most important items you will need for surf fishing in 2017:

Stop by your local tackle shop and pick up a few time-tested surf-favorites like Kastmasters, Krocodiles, Rapalla and Lucky Craft Lures. For Kastmasters I like to use both gold and silver finishes in ½ to 1 ounce sizes. When it comes to Krocodiles I like to use 5/8 to 1-ounce lures in a variety of finishes like mackerel, chrome and silver with red stripe.


PENN'S BATTLE II and the Shimano Sedona make great surf reels.

Rapala, Lucky Craft, Sebile, Yo-Zuri and several other manufactures produce excellent baits for fishing halibut in the surf. To be successful look for “suspension” hard baits. These are lures that dive and then remain suspended when being retrieved toward shore. The most productive sizes are from 80mm to 140mm. Colors matter so look for hard baits that resemble sardine, anchovy, grunion and smelt.

Two baits to collect in the off-season that can be used successfully all year include grubs and Berkley GULP! camo sandworms. Both of these baits work great all year but seem especially effective in winter. Grubs and GULP! allow anglers to use them as an effective lure for finding fish over a large area. They are great for finding fish by simply employing a fan-casting pattern as you move down the beach. This allows you to cover as much surface area as possible and find concentrations of fish.

GULP! sandworms and grubs are best fished on the Carolina rig. You may also fish them on a small leadhead in shorter casting situations. Be sure your lures are no longer than 2 inches and you’ll “match the hatch.” Look for colors that best represent the bait that lives at the beach you’ll be fishing. My favorite colors are motor oil/red flake, clear/red flake, camo and watermelon. Excellent grubs are produced by Big Hammer, Slider and Kalin.

When it comes to rigging for the surf the Carolina Rig is one of the most popular setups. For main line on my spinning reels I use 6lb mono. Both Ande pink or Cajun Red both provide good visibility for the angler in the surf, camouflage under water and great stretch for the fight. For my casting reel I use either 10-pound mono or 30-pound braid (with a 4-foot fluorocarbon leader) in any color. For fishing kelp areas I use the braid and for open beach mono.

When tying the Carolina rig I use a 1/8th to 1 ounce egg sinker, a clear, red or orange bead, No. 12 black swivel, 20 inches of 6-pound fluorocarbon leader and a No. 2 Owner mosquito thin wire or No. 2 Gamakatsu split shot/drop shot hook. No component of the rig is more important that a very thin wire and sharp hook.

The three most important general surf fishing items are hook-removing hemostats, polarized sunglasses and an effective waist bait bucket. Hemostats are required when removing hooks from fish. They come in both cutting and non-cutting varieties and can easily be clamped to you shirt, jacket or belt.

Do you know what you’ve been missing? Polarized sunglasses are one of the best-kept secrets for the surf. Polarized glasses allow you to look further through the water and spot fish from quite a distance away. If you plan to site fish for and catch a huge corbina sunglasses that cut the surface glare are a must. Both inexpensive and high-end Polarized glasses work wonders.

When it comes to keeping your bait alive and ready for use nothing works better than a waist bait bucket. These bait holders strap to your belt or clip onto your pants. There are several varieties to choose from including insulated bait buckets from Alvey and Southbend.

BAIT BUCKETS ARE perfect for keeping your bait fresh and available at the beach.

When it comes to surf rods I’m a bit biased toward my four rod surf series made by Cousins. But there are many other very good rods that can be used in the surf which are produced by Shimano and Phenix. What’s most important is that you find a 7- to 9-foot parabolic rod best suited for using 4- to-12 pound monofilament.

When purchasing a surf rod I’m always looking for something that is well made. A rod that is light (some of the best are about six ounces) and one which is made to withstand the salt and sand of the beach. I prefer a cork handle for it’s durability and light-weight. What may be most important is that the rod is balanced right over the reel so as to reduce fatigue. You’ll need two surf rods, one for a spinning and one for lure casting presentations.

For reels, the first rule for any surf fisherman is to keep the price of a reel down as you never know when sand and saltwater will freeze your reel like an old jeep. For spinning applications my favorite reels are made by PENN and Shimano. PENN’s Battle II spinning reel has sealed bearings, great line capacity and a very smooth drag. Shimano makes several good surf reels including the Sedona and Sienna. I use 2500-3000 sizes.

For lure casting applications I will either use a larger spinning reel (3000 or 4000 series) or a bait-casting reel matched with a conventional rod. Shimano Corrado and Abu Garcia’s Revo SX bait casting reels work fantastic in the surf.

Now I know that’s a lot of info and even more new tackle but if you keep an eye out for sales you’re bound to get everything before next Christmas! I keep a close eye on local tackle shop ads in Western Outdoor News and other quality fishing publications and on the internet. Also club swap meets like the one presented by Long Beach Tuna Club sell new and used equipment with proceeds benefiting their many marine projects. Of course, the big one will be coming in March when the Fred Hall Shows offer some of the best deals on the planet!

So tune your equipment and make a list — Christmas may be over for other folks but for surf fishermen like us, it’s just beginning!

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Pick up Bill Varney’s 2017 SportFishing Tide Calendar at tackle stores and all Turner’s locations and help benefit CCA of California. Check Bill’s seminar page for information on this year’s upcoming on-the-beach seminars at fishthesurf.com

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